Tim Ruskell is Bears’ in-house candidate for GM job
By Sean Jensen firstname.lastname@example.org January 9, 2012 10:44PM
Bears interim general manager Tim Ruskell was brought in by recently ousted GM Jerry Angelo in 2010. | AP
TIM RUSKELL’S HIGHS AND LOWS WITH THE SEAHAWKS
• Selected USC linebacker Lofa Tatupu in the second round of the 2005 NFL draft. He would be selected to three consecutive Pro Bowls.
• Traded a high second-round pick in the 2009 draft to the Broncos for what would become the 14th overall pick in the 2010 draft. The Seahawks selected safety Earl Thomas.
• Traded safety Michael Boulware to the Texans for defensive end Jason Babin. But Babin only played four games in two seasons because of Mike Holmgren’s issues with Ruskell. Babin has since become a two-time Pro Bowl selection.
• Max Unger, a second-round pick in 2009, has developed into one of the league’s better centers.
• Signed receiver Joe Jurevicius, who scored 10 touchdowns in his first season.
• Traded a first-round pick to the Patriots for Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch, then awarded the receiver a contract that included $13 million in guarantees. Branch scored four touchdowns in his first three seasons.
• Instead of a franchise tag, he put a transition tag on All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson. The Vikings drafted a contract the Seahawks couldn’t match and signed the future Hall of Famer away.
• Gave MVP Shaun Alexander a contract that included $13 million in guarantees. But he never topped 1,000 rushing yards after that.
• Hired Jim Mora Jr. as coach before Holmgren was officially ousted.
• Selected linebacker Aaron Curry, who had only 5½ sacks, with the fourth overall pick in 2009.
Updated: February 11, 2012 8:20AM
As Bears president Ted Phillips consults trusted advisers throughout the league, player personnel director Tim Ruskell quietly serves as the interim general manager.
He’d like to remove the interim tag and replace Jerry Angelo on a permanent basis.
The thought might not sit well with some in the Bears’ fan base given Ruskell’s friendship and history with Angelo, who hired him in April 2010.
But five league sources familiar with Ruskell and the Seattle Sea-hawks insist that he’s his own man, and he wouldn’t be Angelo 2.0. He’s respected for his player evaluation, leadership and character, a quality that became apparent when he didn’t feel the need to defend himself from critics or explain his side of the awkward clash for power in Seattle with Mike Holmgren.
A veteran of more than two decades in the NFL, Ruskell mostly has worked for winners, starting at Tampa Bay with a scouting department assembled by Rich McKay — now president of the Atlanta Falcons — that turned the Buccaneers from laughingstocks to Super Bowl champions.
Ruskell was at the center of that rebuilding as the Bucs’ college scouting director. After Angelo was named Bears general manager in 2001, Ruskell replaced him as director of player personnel.
He won a Super Bowl ring with the Bucs in that capacity after the 2002 season.
When McKay headed to the Falcons, he hired Ruskell as his assistant general manager, and they turned a 5-11 team into the NFC South champion, drafting players such as cornerback DeAngelo Hall, quarterback Matt Schaub, wide receiver Michael Jenkins and linebacker Demorrio Williams.
He was then hired as president of football operations and general manager of the Seahawks before the 2005 season.
Owner Paul Allen — the co-founder of Microsoft — created a less-than-ideal working environment for his football staff. Mike Holmgren, who led the Green Bay Packers to two Super Bowls, including a victory, was hired as the Seahawks’ executive vice president/general manager and coach in 1998. He had full authority on all personnel decisions.
But he was stripped of that power the year before Ruskell was brought onboard.
Two sources said Ruskell immediately cleaned up the organization, parting ways with character-challenged players such as wide receiver Koren Robinson.
In 2005, the Seahawks drafted two linebackers who quickly upgraded a defense that had ranked 26th in yards. Leroy Hill, a third-round selection, contributed 7½ sacks, and middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu headed to the Pro Bowl as a rookie. They also signed veteran receiver Joe Jurevicius, who had a career-high 10 touchdowns that season.
The Seahawks were seventh in points allowed, and the offense ranked second in the NFL.
Seattle, 9-7 in 2004, went 13-3, won the NFC West and reached Super Bowl XL, where it was defeated by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The high, though, was temporary.
The Seahawks were adversely affected by two decisions the following offseason. First, they rewarded running back Shaun Alexander — the reigning MVP — with an eight-year contract that included $15 million in guarantees. Second, they put a transition tag on perennial All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson, and the Minnesota Vikings used the infamous “poison pill” to ensure the Seahawks couldn’t match their lucrative contract offer.
The Seahawks, though, claimed the NFC West in 2006 and 2007, and they at least reached the divisional playoff round both times.
By 2007, tension between Holm-gren and Ruskell came to a head, and defensive end Jason Babin was one of the players caught in the middle, Babin said last month.
Ruskell shipped safety Michael Boulware to the Houston Texans and acquired Babin, a 2004 first-round pick.
Babin couldn’t get out of Holm-gren’s doghouse and appeared in only four games in two seasons with the Seahawks. In 2010 and ’11 , Babin was picked for the Pro Bowl and totaled 30½ sacks.
Phillips isn’t believed to have any front-runners for the GM vacancy, whether in-house or out of house. But he’ll investigate and interview some of the young, up-and-coming personnel executives projected to be NFL general managers.
But of the current options, Ruskell is one of the few who already has been in that seat with a track record that can be discussed and analyzed.
During his interview, Ruskell has to explain how he has learned from his mistakes and why he’ll do better than the friend who hired him.
If his arguments are convincing, then Phillips ultimately might remove the interim tag from his title.